Prep football: Sissonville visits Wayne in battle of unbeatens
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former Sissonville football standout Trent Stowers was a pretty big deal for the Indians football program, but his graduation last spring revealed what Coach Eddie Smolder has been cooking up since taking over in 2011.
"We're more of a team this year. We look at things like one big family," Smolder said Wednesday during preparations for what shapes up to be the Indians' biggest game since 2007: a trip to two-time defending Class AA state champion Wayne (3-0) scheduled for tonight.
The Indians (4-0) are ranked second in the latest SSAC playoff ratings, while the Pioneers - the unanimous No. 1 team in the Daily Mail Class AA poll since the preseason - are tied at No. 4 with Frankfort.
"It hurts when you lose players like Stowers and Austin Crawford, but we told our guys it's their turn to step up. They've got experience because we've been playing them for the last two years," Smolder said. "They're ready to step into the spotlight themselves."
Fullback Dominic Walker leads the Indians with 476 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 66 carries. His yardage total ranks him fifth in the state among Class AA backs. Meanwhile, running back Jared Wilkinson (303 yards, three TDs) and quarterback Nathan Miller (237 yards) are also among state rushing leaders.
Miller has completed 24-of-45 passes for 405 yards and six touchdowns, and has not thrown an interception.
All-State linebacker Mason Hodge leads the Wayne wing-T attack with 217 rushing yards on 31 carries.
While the Indians are coming off just the second road win at Scott (1-3) in program history and also own an impressive road win at Chapmanville (3-1) that opened the season, Smolder said he's aware this week presents a stiffer challenge.
Wayne has not lost a home game in the regular season since a 47-7 loss to Bluefield that closed the 2010 regular season.
"First of all they've got a great program. I've got a lot of respect for Coach (Tom) Harmon and his staff," Smolder said. "They've got great players who have size and speed and they play very hard.
"They'll be the man until somebody beats them."
Coincidentally, Wayne has in the past proven to be "the man" even when losing to Sissonville. The Indians' last win over Harmon's team was Sept. 22, 2006, a 7-6 final. Wayne went on to finish 12-2 and beat rival Tolsia in the Class AA title game that season.
With more hoopla around this game than has surrounded Sissonville football in the five years since their last playoff appearance, Smolder said the focus for his team must remain between the white lines.
"We've got to make tackles and swarm to the football," he said. "We'll run a no-huddle offense and we'll hope to push the pace and move the chains.
"The biggest thing we focus on is that each week is our most important game. We play Wayne. We try not to look at it as the game of the week or anything like that. We can only worry about ourselves."
In other area games tonight:
Nitro (1-2) at St. Albans (0-3) - The Wildcats won the Battle of the Bridge last year for the first time since 2007. Sophomore Brayden Underwood leads Nitro with 443 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 78 carries. St. Albans quarterback Noah Reed has completed 32-of-49 passes (65.3 percent) for 252 yards, 6 TDs and three interceptions.
Riverside (0-4) at Woodrow Wilson (1-2) - Woodrow has taken to the air more this season, with quarterback Brent Osborne completing 45-of-82 passes for 565 yards, 6 TDs and 4 INTs. Another Flying Eagle basketball standout, Chase Hancock, is his favorite target, with 16 catches for 294 yards and four scores. Riverside senior Will Jackson leads the Warriors with 215 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Buffalo (0-4) at Gilmer County (2-2) - The Titans have utilized a short passing game for the overwhelming majority of their offense, but fell to struggling Paden City at home last week when their quarterback, Austin Cunningham, missed the game. Bison junior Jordan Tucker has emerged as a potential standout for Buffalo, leading the team with 528 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns.
Other games include Capital (3-0) at South Charleston (3-1) (See story, page 1B), Winfield (2-1) at Point Pleasant (3-0) (See story, page 1B), Poca (1-3) at Scott (1-3) (See story, this page), Lincoln County (0-4) at Lewis County (2-1), Huntington (4-0) at Ripley (0-4), Ravenswood (2-1) at Williamstown (3-0), Valley (3-0) at Fayetteville (2-2), Midland Trail (1-3) at Van (1-2), Braxton County (0-4) at Roane County (2-2), Logan (3-1) at Chapmanville (3-1), Nicholas County (2-2) at Clay County (1-3) and Liberty-Raleigh (1-3) at Sherman (2-2).
George Washington (4-0) is idle this week.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at email@example.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.